Silicon Valley venture capitalist icon Bill Draper has recently started a new chapter in his life: as a philanthropist in the footsteps of super-wealthy captains of industry, most notably Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
Last weekend, Draper, general partner of Draper Richards LLP and chairman of The Draper Richards Foundation, was honored by the America India Foundation (AIF) for his corporate and philanthropic commitments to India. AIF, an organization founded in 2001 to spur social and economic change in India, held its annual gala at the famed Palace Hotel in San Francisco, raising $1.2 million that evening.
For Draper, philanthropy is just like a business investment. Only instead of returns, he says, “you have to show real results.” In fact, he demands certain results from the philanthropic programs he backs. Specifically, The Draper Richards Foundation provides early-stage grants of $300,000 over three years to social entrepreneurs in India and elsewhere who have a vision of changing the world.
Draper shook his head at the notion of making longer investments, lest recipients become dependent on the grants merely to exist. “You don’t want to do that,” he says. Draper also mentioned that the heavy inheritance tax is what’s pushing wealthy individuals like himself to invest more in philanthropy.
I asked Draper how rich folks decide what causes to champion, since there are so many to choose from. He admitted that his wife has been involved in philanthropy for many years and he often follows her lead.
Nevertheless, philanthropy in India seemed a natural fit, he says, since he’d been making business investments there since the mid-1990s and bore witness to India’s rise as a technology hub. “We looked hard at China but decided on India,” Draper says. “India had democracy, which was important to us, and spoke English.”
“We liked the food better,” he added with a grin.
Also honored at the AIF event was Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit. Smith and Draper are “integral parts of the U.S.-India bridge that is creating opportunity in both countries,” says Lata Krishnan, AIF’s vice chair.
Tom Kaneshige has been covering business and technology in Silicon Valley for two decades. As senior online writer at CIO.com, Tom covers Silicon Valley culture, BYOD and consumer tech in the enterprise.